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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Focus on the basics when preparing for smooth calving period

In this article on, Richard Gibson CAFRE, explores some of the key factors required for a smooth calving period.

The start of the calving season is always an anxious time for dairy farmers, cow and calve health issues, disease pressure and also the added strain on farm labour.

Preparation is key as we must prepare to succeed at calving with a smooth calving period being the ultimate target on your farm.

Clearly, the importance of management of the dry cow is key, with particular emphasis on the period 3 to 4 weeks pre-calving.

A high incidence of production diseases such as milk fever, retained cleanings and stomach problems in fresh-calved cows can very often be traced back to the management of the dry cow. I will look at this area later in the article.

First, focus on the basics!

Calving equipment

In terms of equipment, make a list and review if anything needs to be replaced and if there is enough of what is needed.

This includes:

  • A good calving gate securely fitted;
  • Calving jack in good working order;
  • Two sets of clean nylon ropes;
  • Buckets;
  • Disinfectant;
  • Lubricant;
  • Two stomach tubes (one for sick calves and one for colostrum management);
  • Feeding bottle;
  • Iodine;
  • Electrolytes;
  • Thermometer;
  • Warming box;
  • Calf jacket or infra-red lamp;
  • Box of arm-length gloves;
  • Standard rubber gloves;
  • Access to warm water.

Also, check in advance if calving cameras and calving sensors are working. A whiteboard is also useful, alongside your equipment, for taking notes like extra feeds or special treatments.

This is particularly important if there are several staff members sharing the work during calving.

Preparation is the key, have calving pens clean and disinfected prior to the start of calving. Use plenty of straw in calving pens to keep young or newborn calves warm.

An adequately bedded pen is one in which you can kneel down without your knees getting wet.

Pens should also be draught-free. Do not forget about your own health during calving.

It is likely the busiest time on the farm, so be sure to take a rest and organise additional help when needed.

Part two of this article to follow on

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